Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Inspiration Station

I am always excited to learn that someone I know through work or random friendship secretly wants to write. I was always a secret wanna-be writer myself. I would hold that dream tight to my chest and never tell a soul.  I read bought and read writing books in secret. I wrote in my journal. I never wrote anything remotely resembling fiction. There were no characters, no plot lines, no descriptive passages. My dream to some day write a book remained just that – a dream.

Then in 2007, I bought a book that seemed to speak directly to my issue. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty seemed from the cover to discuss what to do when you wanted to write, but had no story idea. I dove in, looking for the magic formula.

To my surprise, the book was not about how to write a book without a story. It was about National Novel Writing Month. After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, finished my 50,000 words in 30 days and never looked back.

NaNoWriMo taught me the most important lesson anyone who wants to write can learn. It taught me how to shut up, sit down, and just get the hell out of my own way.

Getting up the courage to actually talk about my writing and come out of the closet, so to speak, was an entirely different lesson to learn. It took my 7 years from that first high of winning NaNo, and many NaNos more, to decide to self-publish one of my books. It took me another six months to actually call myself a writer and start to talk about it with friends and family.

As soon as I took that first step and owned my writing dream, I was amazed at the number of people I knew or came to know that “always wanted to write a book.” And I was even more amazed that I could become an inspiration to them. Me? An inspiration? Hardly! I was so full of writerly angst and uncertainty that I could not imagine anyone taking anything positive away from my experience other than perhaps as a cautionary tale.

Now as I polish my second book for its first trip to my editor, I am still finding fellow writers in unlikely places. I always tell them about NaNoWriMo and urge them to just take the plunge. Put one word in front of the other and get out of the way. Magic has a way of taking over in the middle of an impossible challenge.

Inevitably, they will say things like, “oh, I wouldn’t know what to write about,” or “I am so busy, I couldn’t possibly find the time.” Yet they have such a wistful expression as they say this that I can’t help but think NaNo may be just what they need. A chance to get out of their own way and stop making excuses. A chance to spread their wings and just try.

What happens in NaNo can stay in NaNo if you choose, but so many of the wondrous stories that happen in NaNo find their way into the world. And thank the gods of words and stories for that!




    Read your new post. Good one, we can’t wait for your new book. Lots of hard work that you put in it, but I know for you it’s a labor of love. Keep on writing. So proud of you. Love, Mom and Dad

    Sent from my iPad


    • Love to both of you!! I wouldn’t have the courage to do it with your love and support. 🙂

  2. Yes, please keep on writing I need your stories 😊

    • Bee – you know as well as I that putting words on paper is like breathing! I can’t stop! 🙂

  3. Rosemary Reader and Writer

    I did Nano once, in 2015, and found it absolutely inspirational, but I haven’t done it since, because I’m still editing the novel I wrote in 2015. Glad it’s worked so well for you, Cheryl, and that you managed to self-publish.

    • I am learning that the trick is to just keep writing new stories, while you are editing old ones. From 2007 to 2013, I did five NaNos and never stopped to edit or fix them, just let them rest. Then in 2014, I pulled out the first one, tore through edits, hired an independent editor and cover artist and self-published it in 2015. I just sent my second NaNo to my editor a week ago and am looking at a 2018 release date. I am not in love with two of the other three novels, so I am going to have to work on new stories this year as well! 🙂

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